While reading David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
, page 114, I just came across the interesting saying, “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg
.” In the book, which takes place in Japan at the turn of the 19th century, Jacob de Zoet is asked by his Japanese associates to explain some English words and phrases they are having trouble understanding, and this was one of them.
I had never heard the expression before, but with about 140,000 Google hits (at my space-time coordinates) it is not unheard of. When I tracked it down it turned out to be from a Thomas Jefferson quote. Jefferson was not a believer in a traditional God, but has been described as a deist – belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism). In his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
(1804) or as it is now called The Jeffersonian Bible
(114 pages), he copied the text of the four Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) and eliminated all references to the mystic and miraculous (virgin birth, etc,) – which gives one an idea of his thinking on religion.
His exact quote gives one a further insight into his views of religious tolerance and the role of government:
IT NEITHER PICKS MY POCKET NOR BREAKS MY LEG
<1804 “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”—Notes on the State of Virginia (1781-1783) by Thomas Jefferson>
: It does me no harm.
I don’t know anything about Glen Beck, other than that he is a conservative radio and TV host, so when I was looking for quotes I was surprised to come up with this, which points to the fact that he is definitely no social conservative:
<2011 “‘Do you believe gay marriage is a threat to the country in any way?’ O'Reilly asked. ‘"A threat to the country? No, I don't,’ Beck said, laughing, adding mockingly, ‘Will the gays come and get us?’ Beck quoted Thomas Jefferson: ‘If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?’”—Huffington Post, 25 May> [[Beck’s paraphrase]]
Ken – February 12, 2012